In the 18th and 19th centuries, les Cadiens were often viewed as quaint, ignorant peasants. By the early 1900s, organized, formal attempts were afoot to suppress their language and folkways. In the later half of the 20th century, pride in the culture was re-born as the nation awakened to this unique corner d’Amerique.
In 1916, the Louisiana Board of Education forbid the use of French in schools, ushering L’Heure de la Honte, (Time of Shame). The new State Constitution in 1921 reinforced the edict. The next two generations of Acadiens would be punished for speaking their native tongue, not just in the classroom, but anywhere on school property.
Politiciens like Dudley Leblanc in the 1930s-50s and James Domengeaux in the 1960s-80s led a resurgence of Cadien pride which was formalized in 1968 with the founding of CODOFIL, Le Conseil pour le Developpement du Francais en Louisiane, to sponsor French-language education, cultural programs, and exchanges with other parts of the French speaking world.
Louisiane’s wetlands environment forced Acadiens to adapt architectural styles. Medieval French traditions continued, but methods and materials were also learned from American Indians, Caribbean-influenced Creoles, and Ohio River boatmen.
La barbe espagnole (Spanish Beard), or simply la mousse (moss), the symbol of the American South was also a major industry. Commercial moss picking began in the 1750s. By 1830 it was a major trade item. For Cadiens engaged in subsistence farming, la mousse was their only cash crop. A cottage industry of back yard curing did not peak until the 1930s.
Writers often noted Acadien fondness for la musique et la danse. With waltzes, two-steps, and contredanses of le bal cadien went gombo and gossip, cock fighting and card playing, and most of all, courtship.
Hope this gives you all a little peek into my Cajun history.
These pictures were taken at the Jean Lafitte National Park Reserve at 314 St. Mary St. in Thibodaux, LA. If ever you get the chance, you should stop by. There’s so much more information contained within.